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The Great Escape convention marks Xfm’s 20th anniversary with John Kennedy in conversation

By | Published on Tuesday 24 January 2012

The Great Escape

So here we go again, people. The first Great Escape convention announcement of 2012 is upon us. And as Xfm celebrates 20 years broadcasting in London this spring, we are very pleased to confirm that the network’s longest established DJ, new music champion John Kennedy, will be in conversation with Jon Hillcock as part of The Great Escape In Conversation programme this year, discussing his 22 years supporting new bands on the radio, and his thirteen years fronting ‘X-posure’, the longest running show on Xfm and an important platform for new music in the UK.

For the uninitiated, The Great Escape is Europe’s leading festival for new music and the UK’s premiere music business convention. The conference side is programmed by the team at CMU, with support from a range of content partners, and features a packed programme of panels, discussions, interviews and insight sessions focused on the challenges of discovering, developing and monetising great new music in 2012. Add to that delegate parties, networking sessions and priority access to the 300+ bands playing The Great Escape festival.

One particular focus this year is the ever changing new music media, and the role radio plays in promoting new bands. Xfm began staging regular ‘RSL broadcasts’ (on air for a month at a time) in 1992, before becoming a permanent fixture on London’s airwaves in 1997, and going live on FM in Manchester in 2006. John Kennedy became involved in Xfm at the start in 1992, and is the only DJ to have been with the station full time ever since it became a fully fledged broadcaster in 1997. His nightly ‘X-posure’ show has given early support to countless great artists over the years, many of whom have also played The Great Escape, including Adele, The xx and Kate Nash.

Jon Hillcock, host of the popular ‘New Noise’ podcast and a regular voice on BBC 6music, began his radio career as an intern on ‘X-posure’. Commenting on the prospect of interviewing his former boss, he told CMU: “It’s thanks to John Kennedy that I work in music radio. This isn’t merely because I regard him as the finest new music broadcaster working today and my most significant personal inspiration. Neither is it because I was fortunate enough to gain my first valuable work experience helping out on his show. Most crucially, it’s because listening to John’s programmes, and the way they seek out the different, celebrate the unorthodox and champion the new – irrespective of genre, geography or agenda – fundamentally shaped and enhanced the way I listen to music, full stop. I can’t wait to ask him the questions I’ve always been too scared to ask”.

Hillcock will also lead a Great Escape panel debate on the growth of podcasting and online radio programmes, looking at the role such services play in promoting new artists. He will bring his own experience as host of ‘New Noise’ to the proceedings, and will be joined by, amongst other people, digital marketing expert and co-host of the ‘Mr Trick & Wrongtom’ online radio show Darren Hemmings, and Daniel Nathan, Chairman of Brighton radio station Juice 107.2. Meanwhile, another radio-focused panel will invite music business people to imagine what they would do if put in charge of Radio 1. It’s very easy to knock the BBC’s flagship pop station, but what would you do differently if faced with the challenge of both championing new talent and entertaining the nation’s young music fans?

Commenting on the radio-focused panels that will appear as part of this year’s Great Escape, CMU Business Editor and TGE Convention Programmer Chris Cooke has these words to say: “Whereas the music business seems to nearing the end of its ten year’s of flux, I believe the radio industry is about to enter its big decade of change, as the internet reaches the kitchen and the car dashboard, and online radio finally comes of age. What will this mean for radio shows that champion new music? There’s huge potential for new programmes, and new platforms, and I look forward to discussing the future of new music radio with leading players in both broadcasting and music this May. That we’ll also get to learn from John, one of the best new music radio DJs in British broadcasting, just makes the whole thing even more exciting!”

The Great Escape convention and festival takes place from 10-12 May in Brighton. Full delegate passes are currently available at the early bird rate of £120 from This includes access to all convention events, plus priority access to The Great Escape festival venues, subject to capacity. We look forward to seeing you all there.